New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was slammed by Republicans and business leaders following an interview where she cast doubt on whether rampant smash-and-grabs are actually occurring.
"A lot of these allegations of organized retail theft are not actually panning out," Ocasio-Cortez said in an interview with The Washington Times last week.
"I believe it’s a Walgreens in California cited it, but the data didn’t back it up," she added.
The comments sparked pushback from retail leaders and Republican lawmakers, including from Walgreens.
"Organized retail crime is one of the top challenges facing" the company, Walgreens told The Washington Times, adding that the crime "has evolved beyond shoplifting and petty theft to the sale of stolen and counterfeit goods online."
"I don’t know what data she is talking about," said Rep. Rodney Davis, an Illinois Republican.
"But you don’t really need much data from someplace in San Francisco or California. All you need to do is walk down the street to the CVS in Eastern Market," he said, referring to an area of Washington, D.C. near the Capitol. "I’ve seen on multiple occasions when I’ve been in there buying things, someone will come in and raid a shelf and walk out."
Indiana Republican Rep. Jim Banks said Ocasio-Cortez’s comments were "tone-deaf and offensive" to the family of Oakland security guard Kevin Nishita. The former San Jose police officer was shot and killed in November while defending a news crew reporting on a smash-and-grab crime.
The Retail Industry Leaders Association also took issue with her remarks in a comment to The Washington Times.
"Respectfully, the Congresswoman has no idea what she is talking about. Both the data and stack of video evidence makes fairly clear that this is a growing problem in need of solutions," Jason Brewer, RILA senior executive vice president of communications said in an email. "If she is not concerned with organized theft and increasingly violent attacks on retail employees, she should just say that."
California has faced repeated smash-and-grab incidents since November, with most of the crimes concentrated in and around San Francisco and Los Angeles.
The crimes have sparked Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom to call on local mayors to "step up" and hold the perpetrators to "account," and saying they should be prosecuted. The governor also increased California Highway Patrol’s presence along highways near shopping destinations.
In one town, Walnut Creek, smash-and-grab looters stole about $125,000 in merchandise from a Nordstrom, sparking the city council to approve $2 million in funds to beef up its police department and security.
Police union leadership in the state has also slammed the repeated crimes, blaming California’s Proposition 47 and the ACLU for supporting the ballot measure. Under Proposition 47, passed in 2014, shoplifting charges regarding the theft of $950 or less were lowered from felonies to misdemeanors.
"When society removes accountability for bad behavior, criminals get emboldened to commit more crimes, drug addicts thumb their noses at mandatory treatment and vandalism and petty theft turn into riotous looting and murder," the president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, Craig Lally, told Fox News last week.
"One does not need to be clairvoyant to have predicted that in California the ACLU’s Proposition 47 would turn a family trip to the mall or a Home Depot into a dangerous gamble for our residents."
Ocasio-Cortez’s office did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment on the matter Sunday morning.